“They’re not handling things well”

“They’re not handling things well”

pic-lossA client or friend tells me they’re concerned about someone whom they love, a family member, significant other or friend. “They’re not handling things well,” they tell me. Sometimes that person about whom they are concerned is their very selves. Because words mean different things to different people,  I ask them to explain.

Usually it comes down to this. The person has had a significant loss. They are sad. They are grieving. They may even be a bit depressed. I point out that such reactions are perfectly normal given the situation.

We have a skewed idea of what handling things well means. We praise people saying, “She did so well. she never cried during the funeral.” Excuse me, but aren’t most funerals at least little sad? You miss the person and your going to be missing the person the rest of your life.

Having a feeling doesn’t mean you’re not handling things well. Now if you cannot get out of bed or your anger is peeling the wallpaper off the walls, then we need to talk. But simply being sad because you’ve had a loss comes with the territory.


Losses come in all shapes and sizes. Join me on my free webinar (late January/early February) as we talk about other kinds of losses and why they matter.

If Nobody Died Why Am I Grieving? More info and registration here 


Let’s Stop the Grief Shaming

grievingRecently I’ve been introduced to a new term: grief shaming. Grief shaming happens when someone ridicules you for not grieving enough or the right way or the right thing. It’s been pretty prevalent recently.

If you grieve a service dog who was lost in the Paris attacks, you are shamed on the assumption that you don’t care about the people who died.

If you grieve the loss of life in Paris you are shamed because it is assumed that you don’t care about the people who lost their lives in Lebanon the week before.

If you care about what happens to Syrian refugees then it is assumed that you don’t care about homeless vets or struggling seniors right here in our own country.

Folks, we don’t live in a binary world. If I chose A it doesn’t mean that I also cannot choose B. I just might not be able to express both at the same time.

There are legitimate questions to be asked about how we frame the events of this world and how race, religion and culture plays parts in those decisions. There are legitimate questions to be asked about national priorities when more people vote for an American idol winner than the people who will represent them when decisions are made that affect them, their homes and their families.

But those questions don’t get any easier by using shame to ask them. Shame doesn’t open us up for dialogue and discussion. Shame shuts us down. Shame stops the conversation.

So if your friend changes her Facebook picture to show support for Paris, instead of shaming her ask her if she’s heard about the other places that are also suffering after public attacks. If your friend shred the tribute to the slain service dog instead of shaming him, understand that many of us have powerful connections with dogs and we feel the loss of anyone’s dog. Oddly enough, we can care about both dogs and people (although some dogs make it easier than some people.)

The truth is, I think most of us are muddling along the best way we know how right now. Some of us are reverting to old coping mechanisms of fear and anxiety. Some of us are struggling with what our faith demands of us in such a time. Some are just angry. Some are just sad. Some are just afraid.

Some of us need to find the courage of our convictions. Some of us need the courage to step out of old and familiar and limiting comfort zones. All of us need the wisdom to bring thought, reflection, compassion and resolve to the knotty problems of the day.

No one needs to be shamed for grief.



If you’re struggling with grief this holiday season I’m offering a free webinar next Tuesday, November 24 @ 11 am EST on “When the Holidays Are Tough Days.”

I know the week of Thanksgiving can be crazy in its own right, so the webinar will be recorded and everyone who registers will get a link for the playback.

You can learn more or register here

Stupid Stuff Jesus Says

When a young man in our church was killed in Iraq while serving as a Marine I had the honor of participating in his memorial service. The pastor called to give me my assignment.

“I’d like for you to lead in the prayer for our enemies,” he said.

“Can’t I do something easier?” I asked, “Like raise Andrew from the dead?”

It’s one of the most difficult prayers I’ve ever had to pray in public or private, not made easier by the rows of blue uniformed Marines at the service. In the prayer I confessed to praying though clenched teeth.

When a Marine angrily challenged the pastor for having such a prayer in the service for a fallen comrade, the pastor replied, “But we are Christian. This is what we are commanded to do.”

(Recently as a part of my own spiritual journey I started praying for my enemies. Very quickly I realized my prayers were not so much for their well being but for them to be more like me. I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.)

That’s one of the stupid things Jesus said. Love Your enemies. Pray for them that persecute you. (And I don’t think he was talking about plain red coffee cups, but if you feel the need to pray for Starbucks have at it.)

Praying for people who hate us? Praying for the candidates that you feel would be absolute disasters for our country? Praying for people of other countries and other faiths who may even want to kill us? Who does that?

Evidently we who are followers of Jesus are supposed to do just that.

There’s more stupid stuff Jesus said. There’s the one I can’t get out of my head this week: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” So as a Christian I am supposed to care about refugees not because it’s a nice thing to do but because that’s where I’ll find Jesus. Who can live like that?

Apparently we who are followers of Jesus are supposed to live just that way.

Fear is our common currency these days. And yet we’re supposed to buck the trend and live not out of fear but out of faith and love?

“You don’t have to be so scared,” Jesus said in the Cotton Patch Version of the scripture, and he meant it for any language. But who does that?

Actually, I think he’s looking at us.

I am reminded this morning that being a Christian is hard stuff. Oh, I’m not persecuted in this country. I can worship where I will or not worship at all. It’s hard because Jesus said stupid stuff like this, and what’s more, expects me to follow him anyway.

I am continually called to go beyond what is easy or cheap or self serving. I am called to consider the world beyond the sound bite or campaign slogan. I am commanded to take into account the welfare of those who have no money, no resources and no standing, because Jesus stands among them.

Who does something so stupid?

God willing, we will.


Change a life. Change the world.

Change a life. Change the world.

Most days as a part of my journaling I make a list of five things I’m grateful for from the previous day. This morning one of the my items was the opportunity to change lives.

Lest you think I’m being too grandiose, let me explain. I’ve just returned from staffing a grief workshop in Maine. Having witnessed and participated in this work (both as a staff member and workshop attender) for many years, I know that it has a capacity to make a profound difference in people’s lives. I’ve sen the changes that healing can bring.

Here’s the thing. That kind of opportunity isn’t just limited to those of us who have the privilege of doing this work. It’s available to everyone.

  • Extending kindness to a clerk who’s been getting chewed out by irate customers.
  • Holding the door for a mom struggling with a stroller.
  • Writing a note or sending a card just to say I care.

You may not feel like such things are big enough or matter enough, but let me tell you a story.

A woman who was going through a very bad time decided to kill herself. For some reason she had to wait a few days and went to the grocery store in the interim. The cashier smiled at her and treated her with lovely kindness.

The woman decided that if she was worth being treated so nicely that maybe she was worth something after all. Maybe a little something. Just enough of a something to keep going, to keep living.

You have no idea of what people are carrying inside of them. You have no idea of what power it may be for someone to be seen and welcomed as a person, as just another beloved child of God with the right to occupy a place on this planet.

As we change lives in these small hidden ways we are also a part of changing the world.

That’s good news enough for a Monday.

For more good news, visit me at my Better Deeper Life blog.

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